I like records. I like records a lot. This is not a shock to anyone who knows me, nor is it a shock to anyone who has been a longtime reader of this column. It's been fascinating to me that over the past two years records are becoming more and more commonplace, again. I love it, personally. You can tell too that the music business has embraced the return of vinyl whole heartedly. Last year, for the first time since iTunes launched, the sale of digital music slipped. CDs sales were, not surprising, down too. What didn't slip? Vinyl records. Not only did vinyl records not slide in sales, they reached an all time high not seen in nearly two decades. In 2014 the sale of new vinyl records increased 49% from 2013. Nearly eight million records were sold last year.
I've been a—and I don't particularly like this term—serious collector for a good decade or so. I've seen the growth first hand. I've seen record shops expand and grow. I've seen the demographics in record shows expand too. From people my age when I was in my early twenties, to kids and teenagers in my mid twenties, to the most fascinating part I've begun to notice in the last two years or so. Baby Boomers, returning to reclaim their long lost collections, either from original pressings, or new gussied up re-issues. Over Christmas I even saw turntables for sale inside of Belk. Belk, ladies and gents, where I go to get bow-ties and my grandmother gets her perfume. Record players. It's come a long way.
I'm not here to beat the drum on why you should buy records, I'm not getting into that. I'm merely offering my observations. I've seen it go from buying records online from Insound, to walking into local shops, big and small, and seeing record players. You can buy Taylor Swift's last album on vinyl for crying out loud! To me, it's really fascinating to note that there is now an entire generation that has grown up only knowing of iTunes as a way to buy music. I wonder what buying records for them is like? They skipped CDs entirely, went straight back for the vinyl. Maybe it's akin to what I've said before, you can't get more anti-iTunes than vinyl. It's big, it's physical, and you literally can see the music.
Along with the growth has come labels having more and more fun with releases, in some ways making instant collector items. The concept of making something with a sheen of collectablity right out of the gate isn't new. The first UK pressing of Elvis Costello's second album, “This Year's Model,” was deliberately issued with a misprinted cover to give it that sheen. Two of the first big indie release of this year, the new albums from Scottish band Belle & Sebastian—their first in five years—and the new return album by decade long absent Sleater-Kinney (one of my top ten favorite bands) are both being issued in regular and deluxe vinyl editions.
The Sleater-Kinney album, “No Cities to Love,” is coming as a Two LP, heavy vinyl pressing on white vinyl, with two exclusive songs on the 2nd record, an etching on that record's side two, a double sided poster, and different cover art. The Belle & Sebastian record, on the other hand, has one of the more crazy deluxe editions I've seen for a new album. “Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance” has a standard double album issue, or a deluxe four LP box set edition that features extended mixes, two bonus songs, and a different running order. Naturally, these deluxe editions both increase the price tag slightly, or in the case of the Belle and Sebastian box set—significantly.
There's no sign that sales are going to slow down anytime soon. You shouldn't feel as if you need to rush out and buy a turntable, but for those of us who love this 12 inch discs of joy, it's a darn exciting time to be a record nerd. For me I'm going to get the deluxe of the Sleater-Kinney record, but as much as I do like Belle & Sebastian, I'm gonna wait to see what the reviews are before I think about spending $60 for a 4 LP version of it.